MICHAEL BAY’S A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
I’ve heard that any aspiring chef would do well to learn how to cook an egg first. Master the egg, and then you can move on to bigger and more complicated dishes. But no so fast there, amateur chefs in the making: you can screw up an egg too, if you don’t know what you’re doing.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that making A Nightmare on Elm Street is the equivalent to cooking a good egg. It isn’t that complicated to get it right, but you can easily screw it up. And like any egg, you can make it in different ways. Over easy, scrambled, soft boiled, hard boiled. According to http://panlasangpinoy.com/2011/02/25/10-ways-to-cook-an-egg/ there are 10 ways to cook an egg. There have been 8 movies about having nightmares on that fabled Elm Street, if you include Freddy Vs Jason, so this makes number 9. They all have various differences, and some (like part 2) don’t even follow the rules laid out by Wes Craven in the original. So there is still one more Elm Street movie you can make that’s different from the other ones already in the canon.
I think what’s interesting about the Nightmare series, which you can say for a lot of horror franchises especially Friday the 13th, is that no single film is the “standard” by which to measure the series by. Part one has Freddy at his most dream-like, usually hunkered in the shadows of an alleyway or in the boiler room. But that isn’t exactly the Freddy we came to know. His personality didn’t open up until part 4, where we began to see the wise cracking version of Wes Craven’s creation. I think Freddy’s Dead is where everything sort of came together, combining his flair for humor with his flair for toying with his victims. You could argue that the series went in the wrong direction, but I don’t think so. I think if we continued to have straight scares without any humor to them, we would have never known just how talented Robert Englund really was. It’s his charm and his personality that puts life into Freddy, and gives him iconic power. Wes successfully pulled that plug in New Nightmare, by making Freddy more archaic. And I guess that was the admission Platinum Dunes needed to argue that the role of Freddy could still work without Englund’s weight behind it.
I didn’t see this remake in theaters, because I was discouraged by the negative press it received, and by every Platinum Dunes and Michael Bay release that came before it. It’s just an amazing traincar of failed remake after failed remake, pulled forward by our nostalgia and our fondness for the movies we grew up watching as kids. We had no idea the tracks were laid down years ago. It just took a couple incompetent doofuses to put it to use (Brad Fuller and the other guy).
NOES wasn’t a killer at the box office, but it did pull in an average return the first weekend, about what they expected. It made its money back in a few days. And then it was followed by a steep drop off in sales which you could argue made the production a waste of time for everybody involved. The diehard Freddy fans came out to see it, but no one else was really interested. And now these Platinum douches are finally learning that it’s not enough just to appeal to the hardcore base. Their next film is supposed to be “original”.
I am sure Brad and Andrew actually admire the NOES films. I saw hints of it visually. You can pick any scene and usually find an earlier incarnation of it in the series. Some are obvious, like the tub or Nancy’s bedroom, and some are less obvious, like the diner in the opening, or the swimming practice at the pool. But the feeling we get is that we’ve seen it all before, which is why the remake doesn’t work.
I’m not saying it isn’t a justified remake. Like I said, you can cook an egg 10 times and they can all taste delicious in their own special way. For instance, this egg has some interesting differences that the previous films do not have.
There is some ambiguity about whether Freddy was a pedophile but it’s no spoiler to say that instead of maybe being a pedophile he just was. Then some angry parents burned him into oblivion.
Now, the myth has circled around Freddy since the first film. He’s always had that rabid, sexual pervert quality, but it was really a relationship based around his yearning for Nancy. She might have been underage, but it was still a legitimate contest of strength. Nancy could overpower Freddy if she wanted. The screenwriters follow that thread here, but go one step further. They decide there is one thing worse than being killed in your dream. It’s being molested in it! By a guy with knives on his hand. There’s a scene where Freddy lies on top of Nancy in her dream, and doesn’t make much of an effort to kill her. He seems more interested in undressing her. There is another scene where Freddy kills a guy, but in the dream he tells him the brain doesn’t die for 7 minutes. So they have 6 minutes “left to play.”
That was a clever spin on things. Of course we don’t see what kinds of games he plays, something much worse than cards or Monopoly is my guess. There are always hints of sexual perverse things that could happen between Freddy and his victims. It’s all very dark, and very serious business.
Like we learn Freddy used to be the gardener at a preschool and he’d take kids to his “secret place”. What he did with the kids we cannot say, except that these are all memories the kids of Springfield have suppressed and which their parents tried to keep secret. But once Freddy comes back…so do the secrets. Of course if you question why Freddy waited until they were teenagers to have another go at them, and bring back all these painful memories, you would have to ask the screenwriters that one. It’s a leap in logic I don’t have an answer for.
The goose chase-then murder structure was pretty rigidly followed the entire series, so it’s a welcome shift to see Freddy using the power of sexual tension in his dreams, rather than just going for the kill.
So I liked those little changes.
The biggest change though, and the one I liked the least, was moving Jackie Earle Haley into real estate occupied by Robert Englund. This is not a character you can change out like a new pair of clothes when the old pair gets too old. We got an imitation of Freddy but the character was obsolete. Not a big surprise to anyone who saw even the first hint of what this remake looked like from the trailers, but it’s worth stating the facts of the case:
Englund brought something permanent to the role you cannot cover up with different makeup. And failing to see that is why we can call Andrew Form and his buddy the Platinum douches.
P.S. One of my favorite touches to this was the search engine name they used in place of “Google”, called “DigiBlast”. Instead of a button that says “Search” it says “Blast off!” It made me like this movie just a little bit more than it should have.